Fires: deadline for clearing land ends today and landlords risk fines again

The deadline for clearing forest land ends this Saturday, after being extended due to the pandemic and weather conditions, so non-compliant owners are subject to administrative penalties, with fines between 280 and 120 thousand euros.

With the end of the term, the National Republican Guard (GNR) will begin the phase of monitoring fuel management works “from May 16 [domingo], the date from which it will prepare notices of infraction when it detects situations of non-compliance “.

Within the scope of the “Floresta Segura 2021” campaign, until May 9, GNR identified “14,097 places of possible non-compliance, highlighting the districts of Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Castelo Branco, Leiria, Viseu and Vila Real”.

The special difficulties created by the pandemic environment conditioned fuel management work “, indicated this security force, responsible for the inspection “in about 94% of the national territory”.

Despite this, the number of non-compliance situations in the current year compared to previous years “is lower”, pointed out the GNR, referring that there has been “greater awareness on the part of people to carry out fuel management work, as a result the awareness that has been carried out and the wide communication disseminated on this theme “.

At issue is the deadline for carrying out land clearing operations, which ended on March 15, but was extended for another two months, until May 15, by decision of the Government, considering the “greatest difficulty” as a result of the pandemic of covid-19 and “the abundant February rains”.

We do not estimate any increased risk “, said the Minister of Environment and Climate Action, João Matos Fernandes, on March 4, when the announcement of the extension of the deadline.

The work to be carried out aims at the implementation of fuel management bands against fires, in a 50-meter strip around houses and other buildings and in a 100-meter strip around population centers, campsites and industrial areas.

As has been the case since 2018, fines for non-compliance in fuel management are “doubled” again this year, from 280 to 10,000 euros, in the case of individuals, and from 3,000 to 120,000 euros, in the case of legal persons.

This year, the Government identified 1,002 priority parishes for monitoring fuel management, which are located in 168 of the 278 municipalities in mainland Portugal, mainly in the northern and central interior regions. Comparatively, there are 112 less parishes in relation to the 1,114 identified in 2020.

Despite the extension of the deadline until May 15 for the owners to ensure the cleaning of land, the Assembly of the Republic recommended the extension until May 31, a proposal that the Government said was “counterproductive”, because it would imply that the work to be carried out by the municipalities in replacement of landowners and other forest producers in default were carried out during the following month, with a greater likelihood of fires.

In view of the non-compliance by the landowners with the deadline for cleaning land, the city councils must ensure, until May 31, that all fuel management works are carried out, “by means of a communication and, in the absence of a response within five days, by notice to be posted at the work site “.

In case of non-compliance with the deadline by the municipalities, “the following month, 20% of the twelfth of the current transfers from the Financial Equilibrium Fund (ETF) are retained”, according to the exceptional regime of the secondary networks of fuel management bands, entered in the State Budget for 2021.

The law also determines the creation of “a credit line, with the total amount of credit to be granted of 5,000,000 euros, for exclusive application in reimbursable subsidies to the municipalities, for expenditure on the secondary networks of fuel management bands”.

Offenses in land clearing almost doubled from 2017 to 2018, increasing from 4,638 to 8,410 records, while the amount obtained from fines more than quadrupled, from 807 thousand euros to 3.7 million euros, according to GNR data.

In 2020, GNR recorded 24,225 situations of non-compliance with land clearing and drew up 6,327 notices for infractions “, informed this security force, adding that the total amount of fines in 2020 was 2.96 million euros, falling short of that recorded in 2019, which accounted for 3.72 million euros, with 8,047 administrative offenses.

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